#getting rural broadband…summary 2012


This is information similar to what is now in my book entitled:  My Rural Broadband Journey, the one year journey to high-speed.

And this is new:  Tuesday, Feb. 28 in Lansing NY, there will be a meeting about the Tompkins County broadband issue.   http://www.lansingstar.com/news-page/8173-broadband-internet-access.

Background on my Rural Broadband Journey

Since 2009, I have asked Time Warner Cable (TWC) to connect us to their service. TWC provides efficient high-speed wired broadband internet service to Tompkins County residents. We live .6 miles from their last connection and I requested they give us the price of a broadband build out. Last May I started writing a blog about the process to achieve this price quote or to find a service more efficient than our current service, Hughes.net. Hughes.net is a satellite service that downloads at a speed of 225 kbps and uploads at a speed of 153 kbps. This contrasts with Time Warner Cable’s wired internet service which downloads at a speed of 2073 kbps and uploads at a speed of 366 kbps .*source: broadband meter readings

I spent hours researching, writing, and talking to people about my rural broadband journey. I read many pieces and I did not encounter my frustrations mapped out by an US citizen attempting to get high-speed internet service. I read accounts of personal and group incidences, but none captured the frustration I felt when I found a perpetual dead-end to that cable wire a 7-minute walk from my home.

The sources of my reading and research included government documents; web pages related to rural broadband; conversations with representatives from TWC and my local and state government; emails and comments on my blog or about rural broadband; and information provided in periodicals and newspapers. The Lansing Star and a popular local blogger, Simon St. Laurent, livingindryden.com , both wrote favorably about my blog and that led to greater traffic to it.

I searched and selected sources that either would answer questions about connecting to high-speed internet (preferably TWC) or piqued my interest. I discovered data, which led me to the conclusion that without intervention from a lawyer or a higher government authority, my husband and I will not get high-speed internet. In late October 2011, after a face-to-face meeting with Tom Doheny, our local Time Warner Cable representative, I stopped researching and blogging about the high-speed journey.

In conversations, I mentioned my blog. The web address appears on the bottom of my Gmail, which I used for email correspondence with members of local government and readers. My Gmail is claireaperez@gmail.com and my blog, which covers many topics, http://itsaboutthestory.worpress.com is easily accessed and the posts are under Broadband: Rural.

Where the Rural Broadband Journey and specifically Time Warner Cable stands now

(in my world)

I am not done with Time Warner Cable. I think they are unreasonable: they do not abide by the franchise agreement now in place with the Town of Dryden. It appears that 11 to 14 houses in .6 miles is a reasonable request for a build out. The New York State Public Service Commission states that 35 (but more recently, it has been practice to have 20) homes are necessary in one full mile for a free build-out from Time Warner Cable, we have about one half of these single family residences.

This is the argument Jason Leifer, our Town of Dryden Deputy Supervisor, will make to TWC. In addition, my neighbors and I are, by law, entitled to a quote of how much it will cost us to build out if we want to pay for it( see http://wp.me/PVlDG-hN). I will visit my neighbors and tell them what I have learned and enlist their support in contacting government leaders and the New York State Public Service Commission to access TWC.

Tired of getting nowhere, I feel there is so much material I could write a 10000 word paper. Much more than a blog or short article. Below is some data I find pertinent at the moment with some summary conclusions.

““““““

I have an updated list of statistics which I will post below and on the Fact Sheet.

A look at personal costs of communication…

• $99 Advertised cost for TWC bundle of services

• $244 Perez cost per month for Communication services: Hughes.Net=60; Direct TV=60; Phone:=110; Netflix=14

• $1000 Total cost of Time Warner Cable bundle of services/year

• $2928 Total cost of Perez Communication Services per year

• $1928 Amount we would save or spend if the money did not go to communications

• 25% The forecasted growth of jobs depending on broadband and information and communication technologies from 2008 to 2018, 2.5 times faster than the average across all occupations & industries. *Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics

As the data points out, our household could save $1928 per month in communication services if we connect to Time Warner Cable. Money that would multiply through the economy in diverse industries.

There are other economic interests we have in high-speed broadband service. My skill set will allow me to be part of the 25% growth rate forecast. My husband has a LAN and is a gamer and the lack of high-speed internet slows him down. Finally, we almost lost a tenant, a PhD student in artificial intelligence at Cornell University, when he could not get high-speed service at our rental last July. We do not want this to happen in the future.

Others on our street also have an economic interest in high speed. A business interest next door would enjoy the efficiency of high-speed internet access.

Estimates from Time Warner Cable, over the years, for a build out

The following are estimates given in letters from TWC about the cost of a build out to our address. Each letter states something like the last one received in January 2012:

“We have undertaken an engineering analysis to determine the feasibility of extending our cable infrastructure from its current location to your location. While your area does not meet the minimum line extension agreement outlined in our franchise agreement with your municipality, the NYSPSC (New York State Public Service Commission) has a prescribed formula that calculates the costs.”

$18,260 plus $5294 is the amount Time Warner Cable estimates we would pay to build out from their last connection .6 miles to the west of our home, if the neighbors wanted to join in, it would be $18,260 divided by the number interested;

the $5294 cost is for an “underground lateral extension of 1,100 feet off of the proposed line extension. Should you provide the trench and 2 feet conduit necessary for this lateral, and then the additional contribution required from you for this long lateral extension is approximately $5,294.”

I have no idea what they mean by this number.

$53,927.00: the estimate Time Warner quoted us last spring, 2011, to expand service .6 miles to our home with the potential to serve over 11 households, they make clear this is an estimate only

$48,927: the estimate Time Warner quoted our tenants at the same address, their letter was dated three days earlier.

$20,000:quote in 2009 from TWC to connect us

$7500: quote in 2005 from TWC to connect us

The conclusions of this data are that the estimated costs of connecting my home to Time Warner Cable vary significantly. When I have placed calls to TWC about what the real cost would be, I have been inundated with bits of data (the cost of pole rental and NYSEG and Verizon charges, for example), but never the real cost that my neighbors and I would need to pay for Time Warner Cable to build out to us.

I have connected with TWC representatives over fifteen times in two years and the most direct answer about the real cost of connection was from Tom Dohney when I stopped at his office in October , 2011. He is our local representative from Time Warner Cable and his office is located in Ithaca, NY.

I asked, how much will it really cost to connect us to cable? He went off on a tangent several times. He mentioned the need for TWC to profit and something about capitalism. If I go to my manager and ask to hook you up, he will laugh at me, the gist of his response.

‘Would we ask the pharmaceutical industry not to make money on drugs? What about food, would we end up giving that a way? ‘

On the way out of his office, I said “I just want you to show me the money, show me the money.”

“That, Ms. Perez, I’m afraid that is one thing I’m not going to able to appease you on.”

In fact, it is Time Warner Cable’s legal obligation to do just that. Below is the section of law about my right and the right of my neighbors to know how much it will cost to connect us to TWC. It seems reasonable that I should also be given access to the numbers that coordinate with the various parts of the formula.

Fifteen interactions with Time Warner Cable over 2 years and still, despite many attempts, no clear answer. The variability in dollars quoted suggest obfuscation on their part.

Section 895.5. Requirements for construction of cable television plant and provision of cable television services Public Service Commission passed a law

(2) That cable television service will not be denied to potential subscribers located in line extension areas who are willing to contribute to the cost of construction in accordance with the following formula:

(C/ LE) – (CA/ P)= SC

Data: Government’s role

• $20,000,000,000 Amount set aside by the US government to wire 1/3 of our country not connected to high-speed internet.

• $40,000,000,000 Australian investment in digital broadband * The World in 2011, The Economist

• $160,000,000. funds received by New York State from the federal government to expand high-speed broadband access the NY State 2010 Annual Broadband Report,

• $6,3oo,ooo amount New York State won in federal stimulus grant money to draw a map of broadband availability in the state. source: http://stopthecap.com/2010/09/29/ny-gets-broadband-mapping-grant-6-3-million-is-a-lot-of-scratch-for-a-map/

• 8: the number of high-speed and satellite services available on my road according to the New york state broadband map as of Jan 1 2012, Time warner Cable is listed as an available provider service\file:///Users/claireaperez/Documents/New%20York%20State%20Broadband%20Map.webarchive

• 8 PLUS, PLUS: Number of government groups, agencies and branches that impact my cable situation

• Town of Dryden: holds a Franchise Agreement with Time Warner Cable that dates back to 1984

• Tompkins County Broadband Committee: Recommended each town in Tompkins County send a representative to collaborate on a franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable

• Tompkins County Council of Governments: Meeting to discuss TWC Franchise Agreement with all towns

• New York State Public Service Commission: charged with regulating the video cable services in New York State and by default, Time Warner Cable’s delivery of internet service. They have stated in 2 phone calls that they do not regulate the internet industry and can not help me with that portion of my problem.

• David Salway: David Salway works in State Government, as the Director of the Broadband Program Office.

• Federal Communications Commisssion

• US Congress

• President Obama

I have consulted local representatives and the New York State Public Service Commission. The laws and policies in place, give some support to my Time Warner Cable/ high-speed broadband problem. I am now sending this information to higher officials in both New York State and the US.

Here is a sample of what can be done:

The local government can negotiate a franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable that allows for the regulation of the number of homes TWC must service to operate in the Town. However, as noted above, this has not been renewed since 1988. An agreement was close in 2005, but ultimately Time Warner Cable has the upper hand in the negotiations. Every time it has come up for renegotiation, the two parties disagree. Per the New York Sate Public Service Commission, any franchise agreement with video cable services that extends beyond six months of the old agreement is automatically renewed. The lack of incentive to maintain a municipality’s business points to an organization invested in maintaining the status quo. This leaves the party with the least leverage with less power, in our case the Town of Dryden.

Miscellaneous Statistics to Ponder

• New York State received $160,000,000 in financial awards to connect rural residents and ,yet the current broadband map indicates large, unconnected patches.

• $4.8 billion TWC Revenues for the first quarter of 2011; increased 5.0% from the first quarter of 2010

• Quote from Glenn Britt, CEOof TWC, on “Our free cash flow remains very strong generated more than $600 million in the third quarter and almost $2.4 billion year up-to-date through September”

• $6,130,000
Time Warner Cable Total Lobbying Expenditures 2011http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000000881&year=2011

• $1.1 million dollars: The amount TWC spent to expand in Maine…50 miles of fiber optic coaxial cable with potential to serve nearly 1200 customers

• 1.1 million dollars: the amount Time Warner would need to cable a little over 12 miles in Tompkins County Groton/Dryden area according to the Spring 2011 estimate they gave us

This set of data indicates to me that if Time Warner Cable could offer fifty miles of service for $1.1 million dollars in Maine, they could offer more than 12 miles of service at the quote we were given last year. The gross revenues, that their CEO sounds so confident, indicates that it would be possible, given the high percentage of homes we have that almost comply with the franchise minimum, to connect us to high-speed internet.

Conclusion

My husband shared an article with me from The Economist that Australia, with about the same land mass as the United States, is planning a comprehensive plan to cover their whole country with wired broadband service. A vision and a plan. That is what seems to be missing from all the data I have accumulated.

The US is putting money into broadband, but not enough. The US does not have a comprehensive holistic plan of how we shall wire our country. Now that the USF funds will target the effort, it might be a good idea to organize a universal plan that benefits everyone. Some will argue that it is too costly, but perhaps a targeted, coordinated effort might be a good idea and save money. I was surprised when I revisited the NY State broadband map to see that unlike 6 months ago, they now show my address as having access to Time Warner Cable, which it does not. But what surprised me more was that the federal government gave NY state $6.3 million in federal stimulus grant money to draw a map of broadband availability in the state.

I think to myself, If TWC could wire 50 miles in Maine with $1 million, could they wire 250 miles here with the $6.3 million dollars that the state of New York is using to create a map which is not accurate?Would that not be more of an alignment of goals and finance distribution?

The US, I believe, is ebbing toward a very bad economic place. The book Who Moved My Cheese comes to mind, a company thought it’s cheese so good, it didn’t have to worry about change and competition. Yes, I think of this book when I realize I am 10 miles away from Cornell University, almost lost a tenant getting his PhD in artificial intelligence because of our slow internet speed, how much energy it has taken to examine my rural broadband problem, and of my friend visiting Costa Rica.

We Skype occasionally, I look around town for a hot spot, the closest of which is about 10 miles away: my friend hops off a surf board, walks 100 yards to his porch, sits down, palm trees in the background, and let’s his wi-fi beam him up. The size of his town, about 2000 people.

Beam me up Time Warner Cable and to all the politicians out there, as President Bush said in the 80s, It is the Vision Thing. We need one, not just for high-speed rural broadband, but also for the nation.

©claireaperez@gmail.com

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3 thoughts on “#getting rural broadband…summary 2012”

  1. If you’re just an ordinary, middle class citizen living in one of the telcos “unwanted” areas do not put any hopes into the connect NY program or the NY state broadband program office to help out your situation. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones to have a well-connected politician or millionaire living in your neighborhood your area will never get broadband. Aside from that the only way to get broadband is to move preferably out of new york. But don’t let my opinions hinder your efforts to receive broadband for your community. Go ahead and report to David Salway (program director ), Angela Liotta, Tom Frazier, or Richard Ghere the four people working at the broadband program office (hardly enough man power to address the problem) that your address is unserved and see how far it gets you. Since March I’ve made over 200 reports of households that are completely unserved in my area. It is now going into August and New York’s broadband map still shows us as having Verizon dsl services. Thats a lie, these people never had dsl nor will they ever since the NY state broadband program office denied us funding. 335 homes within 40 miles of each other here in North Bangor NY have absolutely no means of accessing the Internet besides dial up and dish. Meanwhile we are forced to pay taxes that go towards areas that the NY state broadband program office deems worthy of such a service. This office has definitive plan or timeline to address this widespread problem which means that it can back out at any time and declare victory leaving the rest of us to suffer. It’s unfair and discriminatory. Just because we live in rural America doesn’t make us second class citizens.

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  2. Frustrating to say the least. I recall – decades ago – that we waited three years (1947 -1950) before we got a phone on our farm due to post-war shortages. We were at the end of the line for a phone company located 6 miles away and another located 10 miles away. We got the line HQ’d 6 miles away. To call our neighbor, a quarter mile down the road on the other line (HQ’d 10 miles away) was a ‘long distance’ call – even though they could hear us if we yelled at them! Times haven’t changed.

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